It's only been a month, but already several patrons have dubbed Water Lion Wine + Alchemy
"the marriage bar."
"As both a bartender and tarot reader, I get to know people in uniquely intimate ways," Water Lion cofounder Abbe Diaz tells New Times
. "I try to match those people together sometimes, and my overall success rate has been pretty good so far, if I do say so myself. No actual marriages just yet, but I'd bet good money on a couple of prospects."
The next time you're looking for a quiet, romantic spot, this new wine and cocktail bar is worth a visit.
Diaz and her business partner, Filip Trajkovic, opened the whimsical restaurant in mid-December in the lobby of Sagamore South Beach. Here, a cozy ten-seat bar and 12-seat dining area offer a respite from the hustle and bustle of Miami Beach.
"I actually went into about 30 to 40 hotels looking for underutilized space and loved this one immediately," Diaz says. "Its size, structure, location, and privacy were everything I was looking for."
Her goal: Fill what she saw as a glaring void of a low-key, vibey venue on the South Beach bar scene.
"I wanted to create a beautiful place for a nice glass of wine in a pleasant environment, and at a good price," says Diaz, a 30-year restaurant industry veteran, designer, and author of PX This (Diary of the "Maitre d' to the Stars")
, which chronicles her work for such illustrious restaurateurs as Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Brian McNally.
No stranger to the hospitality business, Diaz has noted New York City hotspots Limelight, Palladium, Tunnel, Cafe Tabac, and Lotus on her bartender résumé. Add to that hostess at Mercer Kitchen and most recently as the professional psychic and tarot card reader at the Miami Beach location of Employees Only.
Diaz's first job, she'll tell you, was at the well-known Manhattan haunt, Coffee Shop, in 1990; Madonna dined there with Sandra Bernhard on her first night.
"I got addicted to the fabulous and subsequently dropped every job I ever had for the next, sparklier one that came along," says Diaz. "I did that for about 13 years until the pervasive service-industry abuse and gender discrimination wore me down to a misanthropic recluse with societal PTSD."
Water Lion Wine + Alchemy is Sagamore's "hidden gem."
Photo courtesy of Water Lion Wine + Alchemy
It was at now-shuttered Employees Only that Diaz met Trajkovic, Water Lion's culinary director and chef, in 2017. The two became fast friends, and the resulting business endeavor ensued.
Now, just weeks after opening, Water Lion Wine + Alchemy aims to offer guests the perfect marriage of relaxed ambiance paired with top-notch food and drink.
"I knew I wanted to do something high-quality, but also simple," Diaz explains. "I focused on wine and beer, finding a way to put together something interesting and unique. Halfway into it, I realized my desire to do so was filling a need."
Today, after three decades of experience, Diaz says she's sharing with others what she loves best: a place to drink wine and enjoy light bites while conversing with random strangers.
To that end, Water Lion specializes in unique offerings that cover wine, beer, cider, sake, and an in-house fermentology-based mixology program of artisanal low- and no-ABV cocktails. An average week sees a steady flow of patrons built on a strong network of locals, people in the biz, and a constantly rotating cast of hotel guests and savvy tourists looking for the next hidden gem.
The menu highlights Diaz's own collection of wines — an ever-evolving selection that includes a wide range of flavor profiles — from a variety of micro-vintners that offer everything from light and effervescent sparklers to juicy reds and full-bodied whites.
For food, the bar's very own raw oyster shucker, Andrei Situlin, offers fresh bivalves to Water Lion's oyster-slurping clientele.
The menu also includes a bevy of light dishes, a range of top-quality charcuterie, and artlike bites of deviled eggs topped with a white anchovy, prosciutto de parma, or truffle paste — even a crowning of Siberian osetra caviar. Other popular dishes include a chopped shrimp dip, duck liver mousse served with fig jam, and baba ghanouj served with radish.
Water Lion Wine + Alchemy. 1671 Collins Ave., Miami Beach (inside the Sagamore South Beach); abbediaz.com/drinkjoy. Daily 3 p.m. to midnight.